Just how far are you willing to go for a half marathon?
Are you sick of doing the same old races? Would this year see you celebrating your 17th running of the Bumbleton Half? Then it’s time to think about breaking out of the old routine – and considering an overseas half marathon.
There’s definitely something to be learnt from the phrase “a change is as good as a rest”. Looking further afield than the next postcode for your next half marathon race could see you stepping on a plane to an exotic clime, combining a well-earned holiday with some foreign racing or even going to that romantic city you always dreamt about.
‘I did the Jamaica Half Marathon (baby sister to the Reggae Marathon) in 2013 and it was absolutely worth it,’ says Rachel Leach. ‘I had a week of relaxing before the big day, enjoyed the pasta party the night before, then ran the half on the middle Saturday of my holiday. The race was incredible. It started at 5.15am with a torchlight parade; there were steel drums along the route and fabulous support from the locals. At the finish you got a beer, fresh coconut milk and a dip in the ocean.’
‘To say it was pretty warm while running would be an understatement, but this was part of the experience,’ adds Rachel. ‘After the run we had a week of properly letting our hair down (in a lovely all-inclusive resort!), and did lots of touristy things too. It’s one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. We decided to run this because of the marathon initially, but as it turned out a couple of us did the half and a couple did the marathon, but I think that even if we had all done the half we would still be recommending the experience.’
Hopping across the Channel
I myself had a look at the Paris Half Marathon on the Internet and thought, OK, I want to try this. Marathons require a lot of training and so much can go wrong (and often does for me!) before race day. Fitting in a cheeky half abroad, however, as part of a fluid marathon training schedule seemed very appealing. With a record 35,314 other participants, including a host of UK club vests spotted en route, other Brits obviously had the same idea. Unlike a marathon you feel like you are part of some crazy charge to take in a city’s history and culture without inflicting those microscopic muscle tears that a full marathon entails, and you can walk away at the end pain-free!
Run for fun
If you are goal driven, and are wondering what should come next on your running calendar, a half may pull you through training without those daunting feelings of “how am I ever going to do this”. This year Sarah Booker has decided to run in the Riga Half Marathon purely for fun. ‘Every year my company promotes a half marathon for the staff that want to run. It’s always somewhere interesting but this is the first year I’ll be taking part,’ she says. ‘It’s not been too expensive – about £160 per person including flights, accommodation and entry.
For Sarah, knowing she is taking part in an organised trip means fewer worries regarding navigating a new country or negotiating the language barrier. ‘I’ve not been to Latvia before and we’re going to use the opportunity to explore Riga and try some of the local food – not before the race though!
‘I’m looking forward to doing the half marathon as there’s not so much pressure for me as doing a full marathon. There will be less training involved and I’ll be able to relax more as this will be a run for fun, not for a PB as I’ll have tackled the Thames Path 100 miler two weeks previously!’ she states.
Is there a pattern emerging? Perhaps planning or organising or targeting a big city half becomes more attainable when you place your race within a holiday. This will instantly make it seem less expensive, and you never know, just like Rachel’s Jamaica Half, it may add extra to that holiday experience creating lifelong memories.
‘I’m always open to running outside the UK,’ says Sarah, ‘and will certainly be keeping an eye out for more races in the future. My running friends love the idea of destination races; one has just come back from completing Malta Half Marathon, another is doing Ironman Japan and another good friend is flying out to Mallorca in May to do a Half Ironman.
‘I’ve also got into the habit of planning races into UK holidays too. It’s brilliant, I ask my husband if he wants a holiday then mention offhand that there’s a race in the middle of it. He’s wising up now though and has started asking why I’ve suggested a particular destination!’
Hop over the Channel to do the Paris Half
Hotel: Best Western Allegro Nation Paris, £120 per night for a double (www.hotelallegroparis.com)
Eurostar: Prices start from £69 return (www.eurostart.com)
Race entry: 49 Euros (you may have to pay extra for mandatory medical certificates)